Cultural Guide To Glasgow
Glasgow has a reputation for “scuzzy-chic”. It’s not posh but it’s certainly stylish. Art runs through the city’s veins: it’s everywhere – in the countless free museums and painted on the city’s streets. To get a peak at it all, your best bet is renting a car in Glasgow with easyCar.
Scotland’s largest city now boasts the UK’s largest contemporary art scene outside London and at the centre of the city’s universe is The Glasgow School of Art. The building is considered to be the masterpiece of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Glasgow’s celebrity-architect.
Not only does the art school churn out waves of well-dressed students, it also generates a remarkable amount of Turner Prize winning artists; from Richard Wright and Simon Starling to Douglas Gordon. Other famous graduates include Jenny Saville and David Shrigley.
Cheap rent means many artists stay here after university, cementing the city’s creative atmosphere and forming an art scene that extends beyond the student community.
Learn more about Scotland’s un-reported art scene in the city’s extensive range of galleries. See the diverse, international collection at Kelvingrove art gallery; visit GoMa, Scotland’s most visited contemporary art gallery and don’t forget the People’s Palace, set on the picturesque Glasgow Green alongside the grand Royal Doulton Fountain.
Glasgow hasn’t always been a beacon of creativity. After the decline of its ship-building industry, the city became grey and depressing. Tenement slum-housing was swapped for high-rise tower blocks, changing the city’s sky line and breaking apart long-standing communities. Neglect and poor urban-design began to breed crime and widespread deprivation.
But the 80s and 90s were Glasgow’s turning point. The city was determined to change, not to resign itself to irrelevance. A financial district started to emerge, reinvigorating the local economy and architecture became its new focus – the city’s sandstone started to share space with monuments to glass and steel. Now its cityscape is a medley of modernity, Victorian buildings, art nouveau design and Italianate palazzo frontages.
By 1990, Glasgow was named the European City of Culture, the first UK city to become a cultural capital, confirming its reputation as a centre of the arts. After that, an avalanche of awards followed. In 1999 it was branded City of Architecture and Design and in 2003, it was European Capital of Sport. In 2014 it became the location for the Commonwealth games.
Unexpectedly, Glasgow has a rich and diverse religious history, stretching to the modern day. Explore the entire spectrum; from the Scottish reformation and the arrival of Irish Catholic immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries to the more recent arrival of a Muslim minority and a catholic-protestant tension crystallising in football clubs and separate state schools. Visit the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art in the Cathedral Precinct in the east end. Here you can find beautiful religious art and artefacts.
Yes, Glasgow has had its gloomy periods, but it’s always been a sociable city filled with music. In the 1920s, it had more ballrooms and dance halls than anywhere in the UK. The Glaswegians are a resilient bunch: thousands kept dancing throughout the ‘40s as German bombers roared overhead.
For music lovers, it is still a place with an overwhelming amount of options to choose from. For a bohemian haunt try SWG3, found in an archway by the motorway. Here find artist studios, a gallery, as well as gig and club nights. For a more intimate evening head to The Poetry Club, a speakeasy-style bar with spoken word and small parties. Or re-live punk at The Classic Grand or Nice n Sleazy.
For visitors who like to sit down while they listen to their music, there’s The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, home to The Royal Scottish National Orchestra or The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – a college which also puts on public performances. Every year, in June, the Glasgow International Jazz Festival descends on the city. And traditional Scottish folk music is never far away.
Celtic Connections is another authentic Scottish music festival, offering over 300 Celtic music events every January.
Culture-hungry visitors have a lot to pack into their Glasgow trip. Renting a car in Glasgow with easyCar so you can see as much as possible.